Development of aerodynamics in Motogp continues, despite rule changes
PHOTO BY GOLD & GOOSE
New Motogp rules for this year ban the winglets used by most teams over the last several seasons. The change was based largely on safety issues, the major concern being that riders could be injured by the sharp wings in a crash. The new regulation prohibits “devices or shapes protruding from the fairing or bodywork and not integrated into the body streamlining… that may provide an aerodynamic effect.”
As we saw at the Sepang test in February, that has not stopped the factories continuing with aerodynamic development. Yamaha sampled a new fairing, which essentially has the wings integrated inside the fairing, to meet the letter of the law if not the spirit. The other factories are likely to follow, though most are sure to be keeping their new fairings under wraps until later tests or even the first race at Qatar. An additional rule limits development to just one new fairing design per rider during the season, so the manufacturers are understandably keeping things close to the vest as long as they can.
One key issue with motorcycle aerodynamics is that downforce typically cannot be used to add cornering grip as it does in a car. Downforce generated by a wing will transition to lateral force as the bike leans, and any gains in grip are offset by the increased lateral force. Other Motogp rules for bodywork prohibit any movable pieces that might be used to overcome this effect, such as a wing that rotates as the bike leans so as to constantly provide downforce.
A very interesting master thesis written in 2012 by Vojtech Sedlak at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, titled “Motorcycle Cornering Improvement: An Aerodynamical Approach Based on Flow Interference,” focuses on exactly this issue and ways that fixed wings could be used to provide downforce without the resultant lateral force. One of three final concepts presented in the paper is almost exactly what the Ducati Desmosedici used in 2016, with two downward- sloping wings on either side of the fairing. Sedlak’s theoretical evaluation describes how, in a turn, the rider’s inside knee would block airflow over the inside, now more vertical wings, reducing lateral force from that side’s wings. But the outside wings would not be shrouded by the rider’s knee and at a more horizontal angle to provide downforce.
As has been the case since dustbin fairings were banned and the FIM introduced streamlining rules, the manufacturers will no doubt continue to create similar, innovative solutions as Motogp attempts to further restrict aerodynamic development. Ducati seems to be leading the charge in this area, with the Desmosedici having the most elaborate wings of all the bikes last year.
Ducati is also leaving no stone unturned as far as development in other areas is concerned, as a recent patent application has revealed. Assigned to Ducati and published earlier this year, the patent describes a mechanism that, in a wheelie situation, chokes part of the exhaust outlet to provide thrust from the gases leaving the pipe. If the outlet is positioned and aimed a certain way, this thrust can be used to accelerate the bike and at the same time help to offset the wheelie. In this manner, more acceleration is possible with less chance of a wheelie. It certainly seems outlandish, yet the patent application is very detailed and specific in terms of the mechanism and the desired effect.
Perhaps one side benefit of the recent switch to spec electronics is that the manufacturers must turn their attention elsewhere, areas that fans and viewers can actually see new ideas and technologies as they are developed, rather than those hidden inside black boxes. The Motogp season kicks off March 26 in Qatar this year. There we will see how all the manufacturers have responded to the new restrictions on wings— and maybe even a jet- assisted Desmosedici. SR